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13 November 1957



INTRODUCTION--Colonel T. L. Crystal, Jr. , USAF,

Member of the Faculty, ICAF


SPEAKER--Dr. Carroll Quigley, Professor of History,

School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.




Publication No. L58-54
Washington, D. C.


Part 2


The Demographic Cycle


   Demographers frequently divide changes in population into four successive stages which they call the demographic cycle. And those authorities in population here will bear with me if I simplify too much. The first stage is stage A. It has four characteristics - - a high birth rate; a high death rate; as a result of stable population, in which the population numbers remain approximately the same; and in that population numbers remain approximately the same; and in that population an age distribution in which there are many people who are young. In fact, half of the population would be perhaps considerably less than 18 years of age. Now, the high birth rate means that you have many being born, but the high death rate means that at least a fifth of them, possibly a third of them, die in the first 2 years of their life. That means, of course, that those who survive are a pretty rugged bunch. They have met all the germs, or almost all the germs, and conquered them; and they may live to a ripe old age. That, we call stage A.
   Now, what happens is, apparently, that something in the society leads to a falling death rate. In most societies, as we look back over history, the falling death rate was caused originally, it would seem, by an increased output of food, conquering the problem of malnutrition. But at the same time the increased output of food allows more devotion to sanitation and health, more research in medicine, more thought about these matters, and so forth. Thus you begin to conquer the death rate for other reasons than the overcoming of malnutrition, namely, by the overcoming of diseases. Thus you get a falling death rate while the birth rate is still high, which will give you obviously a rising number of people, the third characteristic.
   In that stage B you will have many people in the prime of life. By "many" I mean at least half of the population. A society which is in stage B is a society which, demographically speaking, is at its most healthy and most vigorous and most powerful stage, because many men, the majority of men, are in their productive years, and the majority of women are in their fertile years. Therefore you have a society which can remedy disasters to population, which can remedy disasters in production, by more activity of women, more activity of men, and more activity of the two together. Now, that system, stage B, is followed by stage C, in which the birth rate begins to fall, the death rate remains low, and as a result you begin once again to approach a stable population, in which the population in numbers is not drastically increasing any more; the rate of increase is slowing up.
   In that society you will have many middle-aged people. I am ashamed of myself for calling people over 30 middle-aged, particularly as last Saturday I had my 47th birthday myself, which makes me, you see, well over middle age. But what I mean here is that in this stage C, with a falling birth rate, low death rate, and stable numbers, you have at least half of your population over the age of 30 and possibly even over the age of 35.
   Now, these three stages, A, B, and C, are based largely upon observation of what has happened. Stage D is hypothetical, because I don't know of any culture where we can say for sure that stage D has happened. But it would seem that if you had A, B, and C and the process continues, you will reach D. In D you would have many old people, because of the decline in the death rate, perhaps half the population over 45 years of age, you are going to have a low birth rate, but you are also going to have a rising death rate, because where we have conquered the diseases of youth, we have not yet conquered the diseases of old age, such as cardiac disease, cancer, and other diseases associated with old age. Thus in stage D you will get a situation where the population presumably would be falling. In our Western civilization this cycle has been experienced, at least through the first three stages, and we will presume that the fourth is about due to come up, if it hasn't already begun to knock at the door. In table 3, the letters A, B, C, and D refer to the four stages of the demographic cycle. The table shows which stage would be found at the dates listed on the left in the four geographic areas mentioned at the top.
   From the table it is clear that the demographic cycle is not simultaneous everywhere. On the contrary, it began in Western Europe and has spread outward to other areas. As you can see all four areas that I have here--three in Europe and one in Asia--by "Asia" meaning the buffer fringe - -all four areas were presumably in stage A in the year 1700. But Western Europe came out of it and got into stage B, passed into C, and I suppose that by the year 2000 will be in D. Central Europe is a little bit later in the phases. So they don't get to stage B until 1850 and they don't get to stage C until 1950, and so forth. They were a little bit late. Eastern Europe is even later.
   For example, in 1938 in Bulgaria the death rate of infant mortality in the first year of life, was over 20 percent--something which would be regarded as absolutely unacceptable in Western Europe or central Europe in the year 1938. And thus we have that in Eastern Europe the cycle appears a little later, so that by the year 2000 they are still presumably in C. But in the buffer fringe, in Ceylon, India, and areas such as that, we find that the whole cycle is considerably later, so that by the end of this century they would still be in stage B. Now, stage B, I call the demographic explosion.
   To indicate the demographic explosion I have a dotted line in table 3, page 17, which we might call the explosive line. It gets later and later as we move further away from Western Europe. And as a result population pressure occurs later as we go outward from Western Europe. So we have an Anglo-French pressure spreading outward about 1850. We have a Germanic-Italian pressure in central Europe about the beginning of this century and continuing into the 20th century. We have a Slavic pressure at the present time. And the presumption, I imagine, would be that in 50 or more years from now we will have an Asiatic pressure. Thus the pressure moves outward. All right. That is what I call the demographic explosion.
   Now, to get back to table 1, page 3, the last point in the development of our Western experience has been this revolution in transportation and communication. You are perfectly familiar with it. About 1750 or so we got canals and stagecoaches and turnpikes, macadamized roads, where Mr. Macadam told us how to make a road. And then going on, about 1830 we got the steam engine and about 1900 we got automobiles and then airplanes and all the rest of it. I will not have to go into those. It's perfectly obvious. The telegraph came in with the railroads. Electronic communications came along with the airplane, and so forth. Let's now look at the buffer fringe.
   When you turn to the buffer fringe, the order in which things happened is entirely different. Where this order (Western World) was almost the way you would have desired it if you had planned it, nothing could be more disastrous than this order (buffer fringe). Once again in the buffer fringe let me start with the situation before Western civilization came in contact with it. In Western civilization at the beginning you had the self- sufficient manor, isolated. In Asia you did not have that. In Asia you had a peasant society in which there was superimposed upon the peasant a very large ruling group, which I frequently call "the quartet, " made up of government officials and their bureaucracies, military personnel--armies--bankers and financiers, and, lastly, landlords. And this group of the ruling class cooperated together. They cooperated together to exploit those who were producing food.
   Furthermore, the system by which food was being produced here was a system, especially in China, that put tremendous pressure on the soil, and it didn't possess that reserve which at the beginning of our system was to be found in the fallow year. At the beginning of our system one-third of the land was always untilled under the fallow system. But in the buffer fringe, particularly in China, the land is tilled generally every year. Instead of trying to replace the nutritive elements in the soil by a fallow or even by a leguminous crop, which they do to some extent, they replace the nutritive elements in the soil with human excrement spread upon the ground. But this puts them to the margin where to make their agricultural system produce more requires a major revolutionary change.
   But they didn't get that. Instead, they got Western weapons, because when we came in, we came in with weapons and it was because of weapons that we were able to come in. We said to China: "We wish to come in." For 50 or 60 or more years they said "No. " Finally the British in the opium wars of 1842 and in other struggles crashed open the door to China with our weapons. When Perry went to Japan, just a little over a century ago, he appeared there with black ships and with guns; and the Japanese, although they did not wish to do so, were forced to open their doors.
   Now, seeing that, the upper ruling groups wanted our weapons. They began to buy our weapons. But the weapons which we gave them, even when they became what I call amateur weapons to us, were really specialist weapons to them, because a rifle or a revolver, which in 1880 was cheap in America, was still too expensive for a peasant in most of Asia. He didn't have the margin. On the other hand, the government could buy it. So the first event which occurred there intensified the authoritarian character of their society. Furthermore, it intensified the ability of the ruling group to exploit and take from the peasant larger fractions of what he was producing. Bankers were offering credit to peasants, very reluctantly, at 40 percent interest per year. The tax collectors were demanding more and more from the peasant because of the weapons which they wished to buy, and so forth.
   Now, in this system the peasants still managed to survive until the commercial crisis came along, which destroyed their ability to survive. This is a very difficult problem. Let me try to explain it. The ruling group in Asia, particularly in eastern Asia, but above all in China, were taking from the peasant at the end of the 19th century so much of what the peasant produced that there wasn't enough left for him for subsistence. In other words, he was forced below the subsistence level by the contributions he had to make to the ruling quartet. How did he manage to survive? Because obviously he did. He managed to survive by handicraft. In their system agricultural peasantry were idle much of the year. They had two seasons of the year when they were very busy, but for about 5 months or even 6 months of the year they were largely idle. We call this "agrarian  underemployment, " which is still very noticeable in the buffer fringe.
   Now, in this period of so much underemployment the peasants made basketry out of the withes, hats out of straw, leatherwork, and various other things; and these things they sold to the cities, to the ruling group. And in return they got credit back on the food that they had to give to this group. Thus the peasants were able at the end of the 19th century to bring themselves above the subsistence level by selling handicraft products to the cities. This was destroyed when Europe came into Asia with mass-production industrial goods, which the ruling class preferred to the peasant handicraft products that they had been buying. Apparently the ruling group, while still demanding the same amount and even more from the peasantry, now ceased to buy the craft products of the peasantry and, instead, were buying the products of the industrial cities of Europe. And this put the peasantry below the subsistence level.
   What did they do about it? Not a thing, because the ruling group had the weapons. But then something happened. The pressure of our system upon Asia gradually impelled the ruling group to arm their peasantry. Above all, the fact that Japan adopted our system fairly successfully meant that if Japan were going to be stopped in exploiting the rest of the buffer fringe, she must be resisted with mass armies. Mass armies could be obtained only if the ruling group armed their own peasantry. But once they armed their own peasantry, then they couldn't keep them down below the subsistence level. It was this which destroyed the ruling group--that they armed the peasantry to resist Japan, and their peasants used this weapon against the ruling group. This is really the key to what has happened in China in the last 60 years, and is threatening in other areas.
   Now, the commercial crisis , which I have carried down to a much later date, was followed by the transportation revolution. One of the first things that Asia began to demand was railroads and telegraphs. By 1880 they were building railroads and telegraph systems. One other thing I should point out. The commercial crisis was made much more intense in all of Asia by the fact that when Westerners came in with guns, they made the native governments sign agreements not to raise their import tariff over 5 percent and in one case 8 percent. Japan didn't get free from that tariff until the 20th century.
   In China and in the Ottoman Empire they didn't get rid of it until well in the 20th century. And this 5 percent tariff made it impossible for them to keep European industrial goods out and preserve the handicraft of their own peasantry. Well, now, the transportation and communication revolution requires capital. Where are they going to get it? There is no development ahead of it which would provide it. It requires labor. Where are they going to get that? Their economic system, their agricultural system, is already producing hardly enough. Well, the way they got these skilled technologists, where they got these inventions, where they got the capital was, of course, from Europe, generally by borrowing it and building railroads and so forth. But they were not paying for it themselves.
   The next thing which occurred is sanitation and medicine. I must say this good word for the British: When the British went into China, went into India, or wherever they went, they did not at once try to clean the place up. That was a good thing. When Americans go in, we start DDT-ing and delousing everyone in sight. We do it to protect our own people; but by doing it we are reducing the death rate in those areas and thus we are forcing them into the demographic revolution before they have the food to sustain it. So the sanitation and medical revolutions arrive. Then comes the demographic revolution. That is followed by their attempts to industrialize. They feel they must industrialize to resist the pressure of the West, to resist the pressure of their own areas which have industrialized , like Japan, or perhaps even to resist the pressure of the bloc that we're not talking about today, the Soviet bloc. And if they are going to industrialize, again, how can they do it?
   One way it can be done is by borrowing from Europe, which is now no longer feasible and becomes less and less feasible. Furthermore, it represents a continuation, an increase, of colonialism, and they wish to get away from colonialism. Instead, they wish, if possible, to avoid borrowing. So the way in which it must be done, it would seem, would be to squeeze more out of their own peasantry. That is exactly what is being done in Soviet Russia. Soviet Russia is industrializing by increasing the pressure on their own peasantry when they really haven't got the agricultural revolution.
   Now, to this point I have been describing what has happened. In Asia, in the buffer fringe, and in the Soviet bloc as well, they have not yet got seven and they have not yet got eight and I doubt very much if they will ever get eight. But the whole thing creates a tremendously dangerous situation. And before I stop, as I reach the end of my time, I would like to point out this:
   When I speak of the agricultural revolution in Asia, what can they do? Well, they could adopt the second stage in our agricultural revolution, that is, the leguminous-rotation system, which would be a big help. But they probably cannot adopt the American stages which should go right along with that--the farm machinery stage, the fertilizer and chemical stages, and the gasoline power stage--because these things are much too expensive for them and represent buying things, such as chemicals, gasoline, and so forth, which they don't have. Notice a very drastic difference between American agriculture and European agriculture. To put it briefly, it is this: In Europe they have a limited supply of land and in Asia they have a limited supply of land and a surplus of labor. In America we have always historically had a plentiful supply of land and a lack of labor. Therefore our agricultural development has worked toward increasing the output per man-hour. In Europe and in Asia they must work in the direction of increased output per acre or per unit of ground.
   These are absolutely antithetical things, it seems to me. Our output per acre is notoriously poor compared, for instance, to Europe's; but our output per man-hour is fantastically high. Therefore for us to go to the people of Asia and say: "You need the agricultural revolution-- that means you need tractors, you need DDT, you need chemical fertilizers. All of these things is offering them something which they do not need or want. What they need are much simpler things, and I will end up with a story which illustrates it.

   An American from our State Department, I believe, went to Afghanistan to work on some kind of a farm program. Since he had come from Iowa and knew good farming when he saw it, good American farming, he was utterly horrified at the Afghan farming, because it was so poor. So he wrote back to America and he wanted certain things, notably hoes.
   He couldn't get hoes. The answer came: "We have no hoes, but we have lots of tractors." But tractors to these people are worthless. So he wrote to his 4-H Club in Iowa and said, "I need hoes. " They got 300 of them together and shipped them to him. In his own little garden he increased output per unit of ground so fantastically that all of the neighbors began to say, "How do you do this?" He said, "Simply with a hoe. "
   In Europe you could increase output simply by plowing 6 inches deeper, because in most of Europe they plough only the upper few inches. That is exhausted, but down a few few inches further is fertile soil which hasn't been used for centuries.
All right. We'll stop now. I have gone over my time.


Next Section - General Discussion


Professor Quigley of Georgetown University


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